ADDRESS OF S. JAGJIT SINGH LYALLPURI PRESIDENT
COM. PRESIDENT, DELEGATES, OBSERVERS AND FRIENDS,
I welcome you all heartily to this Conference of the All India Kisan Sabha. It is for the second time in the history of organised peasant movement in India that the Punjab has been given the honour to hold Annual Session of All India Kisan Sabha.
Eleven years ago, when the organised peasant movement in India was still in its infancy, the Punjab had the proud privilege to hold the Annual Session of the All India Kisan Sabha at Bhakna.
To-day when the organised peasant movement in India has become a mighty force embracing over one million of organised peasantry, Punjab & Pepsu have once again been given this honour. In between this period of 11 years, friends, we in Punjab & Pepsu had to suffer very hard and sacrifice the most in order to defend the gains of our peasant as well as National movement.
After Bhakna Session in 1943, to-day you find our dear land cruelly partitioned into two. Nearly 10 million people, had to migrate from one part to the other. During the process of this cruel partition, nearly 1500 of our villages of East Punjab & Pepsu alone have been razed to the ground, lakhs of acres of crops were destroyed and people rendered homeless.
The worst communal forces organised by princes and feudal elements were let loose, killing lakhs of our people. Some of our best Kisan leaders like Com. Gehal Singh of Chhajal Wadi-then the President Punjab Kisan Sabha, had to sacrifice their very lives in defending the lives of Muslim brethren against the hands of communal forces.
With all humility therefore, I say that the peasant movement in this part of the country deserved this honour. It goes without saying that the peasantry of the Punjab and Pepsu have always been in the forefront of our National movement. As a matter of fact despite the lack of political philosophy to guide and an organisation to assure continuity of their resistance, since the beginning of this century, the peasants of Punjab and Pepsu have been the tall blazers of the mighty people’s movement that arose and developed during the last two decades. As early as 1907, Sardar Ajit Singh, and many others led the oppressed peasants against British rulers. In those very times, the peasants who had migrated to foreign countries like America and Canada, organised themselves into the Gadar Party which had fearlessly fought against the foreign rule for about forty years.
The memories of the brave sacrifices of the heroes of Gadar Party, the martyrs of Jallianwala Bagh and Babar Akalis are still fresh in our minds. The mighty Akali movement after 1920 is one of the biggest mass action of the peasants of Punjab & Pepsu against Imperialists and Feudal domination over the Gurdwaras.
The peasantry of Punjab & Pepsu formed the backbone of our National movement since very early times.
The peasant youth in our National movement has always been self-sacrificing and radical in its outlook. When the upper strata leadership in our National movement failed to lead the people forward, Nav Jwan Bharat Sabha was organised. Here, I may remind you in passing, brothers, that the present Red Flag of the All India Kisan Sabha, was hoisted in Punjab for the first time in our country in May, 1926 by the leaders of Nav Jwan Bharat Sabha. In 1930, an attempt was made to organise the Kisan Sabha in Punjab but it was banned. In 1936, when the foundation of All India Kisan Sabha was laid, a strong contingent led by Baba Jawala Singh, participated, and immediately after that the Provincial Kisan Sabha was set up in Punjab and Pepsu which is functioning regularly since then despite many onslaughts and heavy odds. The struggling peasants especially the tenants, in Pepsu have suffered very hard in their struggle. They have braved firings many a time. Many of their best sons have laid their lives even during the recent periods.
It is to this land of great martyrs like Sardar Bhagat Singh a peasant youth of Doaba, Sardar Kartar Singh of Sarrabha, Baba Jawala Singh and many more, that I once again welcome you.
COMRADES, the Reception Committee of the All India Kisan Cenference have selected Moga as the venue of this Session, not only because the area surrounding it, is one of the strongholds of the Kisan movement in our part but also because of the fact that the best sons of this soil have laid their lives while defending the just struggles of the people.
Since the year 1948 alone, when the Congress rulers unleashed beastly repression against us, half a dozen stalwart leaders of this district have died. Baba Rur Singh veteran peasant leader and one of the founders of Gadar Party died when he was forced to serve the people by remaining underground. Pandit Chhaju Ram of Kokri, the well-known young leader of this area got drowned in an attempt to cross a streamlet, when he was being chased by the Police. Cold blooded murder of Com. Shangara Singh took place just before the eyes of Pandit Nehru at Ferozepur. This Comrade wanted to present a Memorandum to Pt. Nehru on behalf of Refugee peasants, but instead of giving patient hearing, he was shot dead by the Police. Com. Chanan Singh of Daudhar also died in the fields while serving the people by evading his arrest after 1948.
Recently, we lost another veteran peasant leader Baba Nidhan Singh M.L.A. Because of prolonged hunger- strikes and lathi-charges inside Congress jails, he was physically wrecked. Despite this, he continued serving the people, and very recently he died on June 24, 1954. In him, and in other comrades, we have lost valuable workers for the cause of the peasantry. We express our profound sorrow at the death of all these comrades.
Let us begin our work in this Session with paying homage to the memory of those who have fallen in battle for the defence of the interests of the peasantry and the people not only in this part of the country but all over India.
Comrades, you are meeting after one and a half year. During this period we have faced many problems which are coming under your discussion at this Session. India being a vast country, its land system and peasant problems vary from region to region. But still I understand that many of the problems faced by us in Punjab and Pepsu are quite similar to those experienced in many other parts of India. Moreover, we all have to face a uniform policy of the Central Govt. all over India with regard to land problem, taxation, repression and Civil liberties. For many years during the past, we in all parts of India, have jointly struggled against the oppression on peasantry. We have received active support and guidance from each other. We have inspired each other by our heroic struggles and gained valuable lessons through our rich experiences. To-day, therefore, friends, whether you come from the South or East or West, our peasants feel most closely related to you, the representatives of the organised and struggling peasants of these parts. Despite your various languages, which the peasants of Punjab and Pepsu do not understand, they are eagerly waiting for your call for action.
Our peasants in Punjab and Pepsu are facing some very serious problems. They are eagerly looking to you, friends, for their guidance in this Session. You will excuse me, if I take some of your time to place before you some of our urgent problems.
EVICTIONS of tenants has assumed a very serious chacracter in Punjab and Pepsu. Govt. Policies with regard to tenants, and the so called tenancy laws have helped the landlords to resort to large scale eviction of their tenants. So much so, that even the Central Govt. has been forced to confess utter failure of these laws.
This serious problem of eviction of tenants has brought to the forefront the entire land problem in these areas. Some propagandist of the Government and Agents of landlords falsely preach that Punjab is a land of peasant proprietors mainly and as such the tenant problem is not so very large. There is no doubt that very big landlords and princes own large portion of our lands in Punjab and Pepsu. Lakhs of tenant families are being exploited by them.
But the peasant owners too are becoming more and more dependent for their cultivation on others because of ever increasing pressure on land. More than 50 percent of the owners in Punjab own less than 5 acres and the number is even higher in hilly areas and in Doaba districts. Normally, a cultivator in our part requires at least 8 to 15 acres of land in order to carry on one plough cultivation. Therefore, we come across lakhs of families of tenant cum owner cultivators in Punjab and Pepsu. In certain districts 50 percent of the tenants are tenant cum owners. Therefore when we talk of tenant problems, these concern a very large majority of the cultivators whether small owners or the landless.
On the other hand during the last few years of Congress rule the landlords have received free support from the Govt. to evict their tenants. When many thousands of Muslim tenants migrated to Pakistan in 1947, the landlords occupied all their lands, and refused any settlement for tenants uprooted from Pakistan. Up to 1950 there was absolutely no law forbidding eviction of tenant. Therefore, by evicting the tenants, the landlords in Punjab and Pepsu have developed very large farms. It is reported that in Pepsu there are 1000 tractors. In this district of Ferozepur, where we are holding this Session, there are nearly 800 tractors working on the Landlord Farms.
All these regions are industrially the least developed, and whatever we had has been ruined mostly after partition.
Pressure on land, therefore, is very serious. That is why despite Rent Control up to a maximum of one third most of cultivators have still to pay half Batai and the cash rent in certain areas is as high as Rupees 200 per acre of land. The problem for the cultivators of land here, therefore, is not of eviction only. It is now also closely connected with the grant of Land to poor peasants. This cannot be granted unless the Land controlled under big farms is taken over and also vast areas of Waste Land are distributed.
IRRIGATION Water rates have been increased by 50 percent quite in line with the All India Policy of the Govt. In Punjab it is all the more unjustified because the peasants have paid very heavily upto now for the Canal waters. Irrigation department has always been a source of huge profits to the Govt. Not only, that water rates have been increased, various other wicked tricks and devices are practised in order to increase the total realizations of water rates. Abiana has been increased but the water supply is ever on the decrease. The same amount of canal water is distributed on more lands in order to increase the area to be charged for water tax. Thus the crops do not properly mature and total earnings of the peasant are greatly reduced. There is much talk of big irrigation Project in Punjab and Pepsu, but the peasants are crying for canal water for their fields. You will be astonished to know, that where as there is much talk of early completion of Bhakra Project, quite recently the Irrigation department has announced its inability to provide even the normal supply of canal water in Gurdaspur and Amritsar districts. In addition, the peasantry in Punjab alone will have to pay Betterment charges of 75 crores.
BURDEN OF TAXATION
Taxes have been increased very much during the past few years, 50 percent increase in Abiana is already reported. Local rates and Professional taxes have been enhanced. Quite recently surcharge on land has been imposed from 25 to 40 percent of the normal Land Revenue on land holdings of over 5 acres. Besides These, burden of many more indirect taxes on the people has fallen. In 1947-48 the Budget income for this part of East Punjab was Rs. 8 crores only which has increased to about Rs. 24 crores.
In certain districts heavy burdens have been imposed on the peasants shoulders under the cover of Bogus and unplanned, least helpful development schemes. In Gurdaspur, Amritsar and Ferozepur, the peasants have been asked to pay more than a crore of Rupees for drainages.
Under the cover of collections for National Loan the peasants have been cheated and looted. Heavy quotas for National Loans are being placed on the Panchayats. A novel method of getting National Loan has been adopted. The Government takes loan from big banks at the rate of 6 percent but National Loan returns are 3.25 percent from the Government. This difference in interest to be paid to the Bank is being realised from the people. For every Rs. 100 Loans from a bank, the Government Officials catch hold of a peasant to pay Rs. 2/12/-. In this Welfare State the poor peasants and people have to part with their incomes and earnings in order to pay full interests to capitalists. It is a Welfare State, no doubt. But of whose welfare becomes clear from this naked example. Coercive methods are used in order to collect National Loan. Scores of Panches have been removed for their failure to collect National Loan.
We are facing serious repression and curtailment of civil liberties. A very large number of our Kisan workers are still being tried in Courts. Against the struggling peasants especially tenants Sec. 107/151 is freely used. In order to help the landlords to evict their tenants, various types of false cases have been started. People in general are terrorised. During the past, few years the police have been granted licence to kill our citizens. People are most brutally beaten in Police Stations and many cases of death of under-trials in Police lock-ups have many times been criticised in our Press. There are cases of murdering and shooting the persons, who are even wanted for trial in courts. Memories of brutal, inhuman police repression in Rohtak district is quite fresh in our minds. Quite recently about a dozen persons have been killed in Amritsar district. After shooting the persons it is reported that death occured in encounter with the police. But strangely, not one policeman in all these cases received any injury. Comrades, Fascist methods to terrorise the people are practised. False murder and dacoity cases have been framed against Kisan workers. Many of these failed in law courts.
Sec. 144 has permanently come to stay in one form or the other. Novel methods of banning public meetings are devised. For example, public meeting is allowed but the use of loudspeakers is banned. Here in Moga, Comrades, inspite of our repeated demands, inspite of the demand by over thirty M. Ps., the Punjab Government did not remove the ban on loudspeakers in Moga. For these days of the Conference we had to take special permission from the District Magistrate. Still we are not permitted to use the loudspeaker in order to make any announcement in the town.
Thus in order to defend the interests of the peasants the Kisan movement in Punjab and Pepsu has to struggle against eviction and against increasing tax burdens. It has to struggle under heavy repression and under seriously curtailed civil liberties. Comrades in line with the Kisan movement in other Provinces, the Kisan Sabha Units’ and its workers have bravely stood with the peasants in all their struggles. We are proud to announce that the Kisan Organisation in Punjab and Pepsu embraces all the glorious revolutionary traditions of this country. Revolutionaries of the Gadar Party are under the banner of Kisan Sabha. Inspite of their old ages, Baba Gurmukh Singh, Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna and many more are working in the peasant movement. The heroes of Akali movement like Sohan Singh Josh, the Babar Akalis, comrades like Pt. Kishori Lal, the associate of Sardar Bhagat Singh, the Navjwan Bharat Sabha, and leading selfless Congressites of anti-imperialist traditions are in our Kisan Sabha. That is why all attempts of certain misguided persons to set up rival Kisan organisations in Punjab and Pepsu have miserably failed.
We are glad to announce that our neighbours and close allies, the peasants of Himachal Pradesh have also organised and affiliated to the All India Kisan Sabha. The peasants of these two Provinces have very close ties and we assure you comrades, that the Kisan organisation in Punjab will help this new unit of the All India Kisan Sabha.
As desired by the All India Kisan Sabha, an independent mass organisation of the Rural Workers has come into existance in our province. We render all possible help to this organisation and our experience has shown that an independently organised Rural worker is the most helpful and solid ally of the Kisan movement.
The peasant movement here is not confined simply to the problems stated above. We are awakened to all the national & international events. In recent times the importance of a strong peace movement is much more emphasised. The achievements of Geneva Conference and of Nehru-Chou En Lai declarations have revealed that the peace movement of the people can mobilise a very wide support for peace and against war. It can isolate the war-mongers and to a very’ great extent foil their nefarious designs. Peasant movement in Punjab and its people have been playing their worthy role. We are proud that two respected sons of Punjabi soil Dr. Saif-U-Din Kitchlew and Dr. Sahib Singh Sokhey received International Stalin Prizes for Peace. We carry the message of peace to our people. At our Chabewal Provincial Conference we held a Peace Session, which was addressed by Dr. Kitchlew. Here too we have organised a Peace Session in order to mobilise the public for Asian Solidarity as called upon by the Peace movement. We in Punjab and Pepsu are much more keen on preserving peace. The wounds of the communal carnage of 1947 have not yet healed. Machinations of American Imperialists in Kashmir and Pakistan create a very dangerous situation for us. A slight viberation of communal or war tension endangers our very lives.
Such are the problems in face of which our people are anxiously looking towards this vast mass organisation of peasants for lead and guidance. Despite the loss due to fall in prices of food grains two months prior to this day, despite the heavy tax burdens, the peasants and rural workers have generously contributed to make this Session of the All India Kisan Sabha a success. The people of Moga town itself have contributed and helped a lot in it. For day and night the peasant volunteers have worked for this conference. Volunteers from the working-class centres, the students and women are all shouldering various responsibilities of the Reception Committee.
On behalf of the Reception Committee I have no hesitation to say that whatever arrangements we have made are due to the assistance of all these friends and comrades.
There is no denying the fact that we have failed to make proper arrangements in many respects inspite of our best efforts Still we hope that you will carry back to your provinces the sincere affection of our people towards you and through you to the people of your respective provinces.
Finally, I once again greet you, delegates and friends who represent the peasants who waged glorious struggles in Telengana and all other parts of the South, the people of West Bengal and Tripura, the peasants struggling in Bihar, U. P. and Rajasthan, in Gujarat and Marathi areas.
LONG LIVE ALL INDIA KISAN SABHA.
INQILAB ZINDA BAD.
Moga, Sept, 17-1954.
Jagjit Singh Lyallpuri
Date: MOGA, SEPTEMBER 13-19, 1954.
Author: S. JAGJIT SINGH LYALLPURI